• Methane leakage a talking point at World Gas Conference after Nature paper estimates leakage rates higher than previously thought

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

There have been renewed questions about the amount of methane leaking from natural gas and oil wells across the US, after a paper was published in Nature in late June estimating that the amounts were 13 million tonnes per year, about 60% higher than presently estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. As the paper’s publication occurred just before the latest triennial World Gas Conference (held this time in Washington DC), its findings quickly became a topic of discussion, with numerous senior oil and gas figures stating their opinions. Bernard Looney, chief executive of Upstream with BP said that gas “will not win the argument that it needs to win if we don’t all put methane as an issue on the table,” while Rachel Kyte, chief executive of Sustainable Energy for All, said “let’s not leave the room with the elephant still here, untouched. You have to plug that methane leak.” It appears there was also a general recognition that methane leaks are lost revenue, and that there might be a financial advantage in reducing flaring and keeping gas byproducts from oil drilling, and in fixing up aging, leaking gas infrastructure. There was a note of caution, though, with Sara Ortwein, president of XTO Energy Inc saying that more needed to be done to make solutions more cost effective. Oil and gas companies will also have in mind the negative reputational consequences that elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions by their companies would produce, and the prospect of tighter regulation.